Having written extensively about the absurdity of Energy Rich Scotland yet Fuel Poor Scots, I thought I’d seen it all. But an e mail in from a concerned Scottish worker showed that not only are we losing out on the exploration of our huge natural asset, but our workers are being exploited. This sorry tale encapsulates the absurdity of giving away our offshore bounty and the perversity of what’s happening to our workers.
Neart na Gaoithe’s an offshore wind farm in the Firth of Forth just over 15 kilometres from Fife and where the energy produced by it will come ashore near Torness in East Lothian, less than 20 miles away. It’ll have 54 turbines and produce enough energy to power around 375,000 homes. All good you’d think. Renewable energy, a natural bounty and a win win for Scots and Scotland. What could possibly go wrong?
Ownership of the field is with a consortium made up of two state energy providers. Profits though won’t be going to either Edinburgh or London, as the owners are EDF and ESB. Those acronyms mask the French State power company and the state electricity company for the Republic of Ireland respectively.
What an absurdity? The bounty’s off our shores and not even way out at sea but within sight of land. But seeing the turbines turn won’t pay the bills for fuel poor Scots in Fife or my own constituency of East Lothian and nor will our Nation collectively gain. Tory privatisation and the SNP failure to establish a state energy companies, instead see other nations both large and small benefit at our expense.
So, no profits but what about the jobs? We’ve been told that’ll be the big win. Perfect you might think for Fife with BiFab just along the coast lying idle. But the turbines are being constructed by Siemens in Hull. They’ll be assembled at Dundee, but the big contracts and high wages are in construction not assembly.
Other contracts have likewise gone abroad from the turbine foundations, through their transportation to the cabling. Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Norwegian companies have won out but where are local, let alone Scottish businesses. We were promised by Kate Forbes that we’d win big in the supply chain. Maybe she’d like to identify just where that applies here? For sure once up and running Eyemouth will be the base for maintenance. But jobs will be limited and the nature of the work likewise restricted.
In the interim let me return to the sorry tale of my Scottish worker. He’s been working on a ship the “Normand Navigator “ operated by Solstad Offshore and working on the windfarm site. It’s not far from shore as we’ve seen and offered an opportunity to be closer to home. But he’s now being made redundant with 35 of his colleagues not as work has ceased, as its early days for the project. Instead to be replaced by cheaper South Asian labour. Due to length of service, they’re receiving the princely sum of 3 days pay. Many others in the sector are also threatened.
P and O was disgraceful, this is worse. Our nations resource is being robbed and our workers exploited.